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Classification of Torts

Torts are infinitely various not limited or confined, for there is nothing in nature but may be an instrument of mischief.1) All writers on the law of torts unanimously agree that it is difficult to classify torts with scientific accuracy. Some writers subdivide one portion of the whole class of wrongful acts upon one principle, and another portion on another principle. In order to give the reader an exact idea of this intricate and much discussed subject, the classifications attempted by various writers have been given herein; but that of Pollock is perhaps the best classification that can be suggested.

Classification by Pollock

Pollock has arranged the familiar and typical species of torts under three well-marked and easily intelligible divisions.

Personal Wrongs

  1. Wrongs affecting safety and freedom of the person: Assault; battery; false imprisonment.
  2. Wrongs affecting personal relations in the family: Seduction; enticing away of servants.
  3. Wrongs affecting reputation: Slander and libel.
  4. Wrongs affecting estate generally: Deceit; slander of title; fraudulent competition by colourable imitation, etc., malicious prosecution; conspiracy.

Wrongs to Property

  1. Trespass: (a) to land, (b) to goods. Conversion and unnamed wrongs ejusdem generis. Disturbance of easements, etc.
  2. Interference with rights analogous to property, such as private franchises, patents, copyrights, trademarks.

Wrongs to Person, Estate, and Property generally

  1. Nuisance.
  2. Negligence.
  3. Breach of absolute duties specially attached to the occupation of fixed property, to the ownership and custody of dangerous things, and to the exercise of certain public callings.

Classification by Underhill

Underhill divides tort into the following classes, viz:

  1. Malicious acts, or acts to reckless as to imply malice. This class covers cases of defamation, malicious prosecution and arrest, maintenance, seduction, fraud, and conspiracy.
  2. Negligent acts or omissions. This class comprises all cases arising out of the breach of the duty of care.
  3. Acts or omissions in relation to the user of property or otherwise not depending on malice or negligence. This class includes all cases coming under the maxim sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas, e.g., nuisances.
  4. Acts without legal justification directly infringing another's private rights.

This class embraces all those unauthorized violations of the rights of person and property conferred by law on every member of the community, including assault and battery, false imprisonment, trespass on and dispossession of lands, trespass to and conversion of personal property, infringement of patents and trademarks, and the like.

Classification by Collett

Collett classifies torts in respect to their nature, and also in respect to their objects. The first mode of division is essential for their apprehension and analysis. The latter is more convenient for the purpose of enumerating the various instances of torts.

In respect of their nature, torts may be divided into:

  1. The invasion of some general legal right, or jus in rem of the plaintiff;
  2. The invasion of some duty towards the public productive of special damage to the plaintiff; and
  3. The violation of some private duty or obligation productive likewise of damage to the plaintiff.

In cases falling under (1), a plaintiff may be called upon to show two things, viz., (a) the existence of the right alleged, and (b) its violation. It is not necessary to show any damage, this being a case of injuria sine damno. In cases falling under (2), the plaintiff must prove (a) the existence of the public duty ; (b) its breach ; and (c) the special damage resulting to himself therefrom. Under (3), the plaintiff must show (a) the existence of the duty ; (b) its breach ; and (c) the consequential damage. In (2) and (3) there is no injury unless there is special damage, these two being cases of damnum injuria.

In respect to their objects, torts may be classified according as they concern:

  1. The person and personal rights ; these include those arising from:
    1. Invasion of a General Right. Assault and battery. False imprisonment. Malicious conviction. Malicious arrest. Malicious prosecution. Libel and slander. Slander of title. Invasion of personal rights, such as franchise, office, etc.
    2. Breach of public duty. Injuries to person from Negligence.
    3. Breach of private duty. Negligence of professional men. Negligence of carriers of passengers.
  2. Property whether real or personal:
    1. Torts to real property. Those which arise from:
      1. Invasion of a General Right. Adverse occupancy. Trespass. Trespass ab initio.
      2. Breach of duty, either public or private. Nuisances. Rights to water. Right of support. Rights of common. Waste.
    2. Torts to personal property. These include those which arise from:
      1. Invasion of a General Right. Trademarks. Copyright. Patent rights. The right to manuscripts, letters, etc. Trespass and Conversion of goods. Detention of goods.
      2. Breach of private duty. Wrongful distress.
      3. Breach of public duty. Bailments. Innkeepers. Common carriers. Deceit.

Broom has also classified torts according to Collett's division of torts in respect to their nature.

Chapman v. Pickersgill

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